Non-Western jets are always a strong attraction at a Western air show and the appearance of the Ukrainian Sukhois at RIAT was no exception. The SU-27 is a beast of a jet and quite an impressive performer at a show. The arrival was cool and the practice display was welcome. I was a bit annoyed as I didn’t have the camera to hand when the jet thundered off the runway and turned towards us and blasted over our heads at the Western Park and View.
The light wasn’t great for any of the times I saw the jet fly but the sky blue camo scheme it wore seemed to do a good job of picking up the light as it maneuvered around the display. Plenty of blasts of power for the engines combined with a damp atmosphere allowing a bit of vapor to be pulled from the air was pretty cool. The front fuselage shape is a little odd and this shows more so when on the ground where it droops down. Once airborne, things are different.
Something photos don’t show is the way in which the auxiliary inlet doors on the underside of the intakes flap around in certain flight regimes. Looking through the viewfinder, you could see them oscillating a lot but only video would show that off. It was a long time since I had last seen the Ukrainian jets at Fairford and this was my first time to shoot them digitally. They were accompanied by an IL-76 and I suspect that will get a post one day!
A Ukrainian AIr Force Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker climbs away in afterburner at RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
A Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker climbs out of RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
A Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker taxis in after landing at RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.
Yakutia is a Russian airline that has had a few problems recently and has been banned by the Russian authorities from some services until it can sort out its problems. Consequently, I am more pleased than I might otherwise be that I caught this Sukhoi Superjet at Narita in their colors as I might not get the chance again. We shall see if they get straightened out or whether some larger airline takes over their operations.
Russian airliner development has not been a terribly successful area for the last couple of decades. While Tupolev produced a huge number of 134 and 154 jets, by the time the 80s and 90s came around, things had got far less productive. The Ilyushin 86 and 96 were not successes and the TU204 has struggled throughout its time in production despite various efforts at upgrading it. Sukhoi made an effort to break this cycle by partnering with Alenia to create the Sukhoi Superjet.
This 90-100 seat jet makes use of western systems and powerplants co-developed with SNECMA of France to try and come up with a modern technology airliner. The Alenia tie in is intended to provide a support network that will appeal to western airlines while having a production cost base the delivers a plane at a price that is hard to beat. The result has not been stellar. Western customers have been hard to come by. Interjet in Mexico is the only current operator and it is happy by all accounts. VLM has discussed taking the planes but apparently the delivery schedules are proving problematic. Far east campaigns were more promising but the crash of an aircraft on a demonstration flight in Indonesia killing a lot of customers and officials has tainted the reputation. Even in Russia things have been tricky with customers returning aircraft due to poor performance.
Having a problem with deliveries is an ongoing issue and the number of aircraft that have come out of the plant is well below the projections Sukhoi originally gave. I have only seen one example so far. This one made a brief appearance at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford a few years back when I was there. Interjet flies theirs to the US but not anywhere near me at the moment. Hopefully that will change soon because I would like to see more of this jet.
The Farnborough Air Show used to be a regular feature for me. I started going when I was studying at university and would go to the trade days each two years as the show came around. When I worked at BAe, they would sometimes make it easy for us to get there. One year I got to ride down on the 146 to RAF Odiham and they took us the rest of the way by bus. Not a bad way to travel for sure.
The Russians started showing up at the shows from, if memory serves, 1988 onwards. They started off with a pair of MiG-29s the first time around and progressively brought more with them each time. 1992 was a particularly good year. Not only were the MiGs there again but Sukhoi SU-29 Flankers were there and, the highlight for me was the Yak-38 Forger and the Yak-141 Freestyle. Sadly, it did not fly the day I was there but those I know who saw it hovering can attest to the noise and spectacle it created. Meanwhile, there were other excellent types there such as the SU-24 Fencer although it was rather brightly painted for an operational type. Support aircraft and airliners were also part of the display as Russia tried to expand its business following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the sudden downsizing of their forces.
Times have changed and I doubt we will get Russian attendance like this at a western trade show for a while. However, nothing stays the same forever so there may well come a time again in the future when some variety will be added to a trade show. With the number of types in service in the west reducing, it would be nice to see things like this again and some of their more recent types would be good to see too.
Was flipping through the Dew Line blog on Flight International’s website and came across this video of the SU-35 displaying at MAKS in Moscow. Some interesting maneuvers in there! Maybe makes up for those how went to see the PAK-FA fly on the day when the engine surged on take-off.